Alex Kaufman

Flipping the Class: Part 1

Blog Post created by Alex Kaufman Employee on Jun 16, 2016

Originally posted by Rebecca Celik, Ph.D on July 17, 2014.


How to start flipping your course: part 1


When Dr. Amanda Brindley, faculty lecturer at the University of Califoria, Irvine,  flipped her general chemistry course for the first time last fall she encountered challenges that are common to newcomers in the flipped community. She sat down with us to share her experience and pass along some of the tips and tricks you’ll need to start flipping your own chemistry course. Part 1 of this blog series will help you plan your flipped classroom journey.


What is the format of a flipped course?


For those who are unfamiliar with flipped courses, they employ a teaching style in which students review lecture materials at home in order to  prepare for class time devoted to group discussions, assignments, and activities.


Amanda delivers lectures via her own custom-made video podcasts. She includes a five-minute recap of the relevant video lectures at the start of each class meeting before getting students engaged in active learning.

I jump into a demonstration or two that serves as an analogy for the big concepts we’re focusing on that day. I have a few students come up and help me, which gets them out of their seats. When possible, I also use animations or simulations as a follow up-- PhET has some amazing ones.


After that they start working on a worksheet for that lecture. About half of the worksheet is conceptual and follows up on the demonstrations and simulations we just looked at; the other half is problem-solving oriented.


Normally I make the worksheet extra long, since running out of activities would be a bigger problem than not finishing all of the examples. I clearly state on, say, two of the questions that we may not get to them, but they are included as extra examples just in case; then if we don’t cover them I post answers online. But I only post answers to things we haven’t gotten to in class.


Sometimes I'll post some additional follow-up to questions we did get to, if I thought we went too quickly through something during class, or if the students seem confused; but I make better annotated answers for the ones we don’t make it to at all. I almost always have to post solutions to the challenge questions, and some of those are very hard. I usually say something on the website or document—that they’ll need to know it by exam time, but it’s a “challenge” now because of the timing. Other things really are above the level of a gen chem course, in which case I make sure they know they won’t see them on an exam for this class.

Prior to class, I write up hints for all of the problems on the worksheet and make those available so that students have a starting point. They work together in small groups with their neighbors.


Use online homework and/or clickers for assessment


Amanda uses Sapling Learning for her online homework system, which offers easy access to assignment analytics. She packaged it with i>clicker to use as an in-class gauge of student comprehension. The homework and pop clicker quizzes served as low-stakes summative assessments.


Homework for a chapter is always available to the students in Sapling Learning and is due 4-5 days after we’ve gotten through all the material for that chapter. At the end of each class period, I post a list of the Sapling Learning questions from that chapter that they should be able to complete. I also list some additional questions from the book as optional but recommended practice.


I use clickers at the beginning of some of the lectures as pop quizzes to make sure students really are watching the videos in advance, since that really is necessary for them to get the most out of the in-class discussion and activities


I also use clicker questions in the middle of the discussion of the worksheet questions as a way for me to get more feedback on how things are going. Clickers also automatically serve as a means to take attendance.

Devote an entire lecture period to explaining the flipped ideology


Amanda’s first semester of flipped students didn’t understand what they needed to do to be successful in a flipped course, so she adjusted her approach.


In the fall I had a harder time getting students to actually do the outside-of-class work that’s necessary for a flipped classroom to work… a lot of them had a "why does she expect us to know this before coming into lecture" or “isn’t it her job to teach us this” attitude.


This winter I headed that off a bit better by devoting a lecture to selling them on the idea and being crystal clear about “what I expect from you” and “what you should expect from me.”


One of the main things I stressed was that I did not expect them to be an expert on the material or to know how to approach all of the problems coming into lecture; but they were expected to try all of the in-class activities, even if they initially failed miserably at some of them.


And the students in my [second] group really did seem to take that to heart; they had much better attitudes about flipped classroom, at least in terms of preparation and participation. The 50 minutes spent being up-front with them about the methodology was 100% worth the time.

Amanda turned her typical “syllabus talk” into a scavenger hunt in her course website via a custom Sapling Learning homework assignment. This is a “best practice” tactic in the distance learning community as well.


The amount of emails I get asking me about things that are on the website has probably dropped by 80%! I think they got a lot more out of it, too, since it requires them to actually try out all the functionalities of the website and navigate to all of the important areas, including the FAQ page.

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